Saturday, September 15, 2007


The last challenge, the one that will decide the ultimate conflict between man and machine...well, between geek and network at least...will be done in the internet's solution for a sci-fi 'Snow-crashesque' internet world: Second Life.

Over the course of the week, I'm going to be going into second life and then comparing it to similar tasks/events in first life, and by first life, I mean the real world. Admittedly, the internet is very useful, but it's been touted as nothing less than its own world.

I say that world sucks. You can't touch anything, it gets really slow for no reason, it's filled with really stupid people, and anything you buy is either a picture, sound, or something you're not going to receive for two weeks.

So...this might be kind of a short post, as it's going to be done over the course of a week. To tide you over, here's a silly story I wrote. I hope you like it:

Vince, the Stone with the Sword

It all started when that knight stabbed me.

Seriously, what the hell?

Did I ever do anything to him? No!

Did I insult him, or deal him personal injury? Of course not!

In fact, up to that point, I had not hurt as much as a flea, steal as much as a piece of copper, or said a single word against anyone.

Granted, I was a rock, but that’s no reason to run up and stick a sword in me! I mean, I didn’t even understand the concept of pain until that magic blade nearly split me in two! Why couldn’t he just drop it on the ground? It wasn’t as if he was going to miss and lose the damn thing!

That was Vince’s side of the story anyway. The bards and scribes that chronicle the adventures, fates and (inevitable) tragic deaths of heroes, painted a more poetic picture. In their version (which will hereafter be referred to as ‘the truth’), they dramatically describe the ancient Lord Brunswager (Broons-wag-er) the 1st’s battle with the Uberkelwinskisaurus (half dragon, half something that definitely wasn’t a dragon) where the Lord received the fatal blow that would claim his life.

The Lord fought bravely, landing blow after blow, all while deftly avoiding the beast’s horns, claws, beak, tentacles, hooves, tail, fangs, tongue and enormous eyelids.

Sadly, despite the telling blow that Lord Brunswager landed on the creature's exposed brain, he didn’t see its left eyelid coming, and it landed a crushing blink that nearly snapped the brave knight in two.

Up to that point, reality and Vince’s version of the story coincide fairly closely, except Vince claims that the Uberkelwinskisaurus was guarding an incredibly attractive and top heavy piece of limestone in distress.

Going back to the actual events, as the monster recoiled back into its cave to slowly die from its wounds, the triumphant Lord Brunswager found he could do little more than raise his mighty magic blade and cry out, in anguish…well, the scholars disagree on what Lord Brunswager’s last words actually were, before he stabbed the sword into the stone.

Most conservative scholars agree that Lord Brunswager said,
“My blood alone shall wield this sword!”

Some recent historians claim he actually said,
“This sword shall lead my people to their salvation!”

And according to Vince, he said,
“Die you stupid rock!”

“So in absolutely no time at all, say…five hundred years or so, the magic leaked completely from the sword into my strapping granite body, and suddenly I’m…what’s the word that means 'able to think'. Thinkable? I want to say…sextant? I’m sextant? Donna, what’s that word?”

Donna was a rather large piece of shale, and of course had nothing to say. That didn’t stop Vince though, who went on with his tirade,

“So it is sextant? Good, I was beginning to worry that I was beginning to lose it. Anyway, I was completely ready to offer the knight a place to sit, where he could tend his wounds, but noooooooooooooo! He had to be the big shot! He had to pick on the defenseless inanimate object! You agree with me, don’t you Phil?”

Phil, a small piece of basalt, had nothing to add to the conversation. He just kind of sat there, inanimate. Vince took that as a yes.

“Exactly my point! I mean, the knight 'probably' had a good reason for running me through like that, but what about my needs? Don’t I have a say, or am I just supposed to lie down and roll over any time a dying hero shows up with an ancient artifact?”

None of the rocks surrounding Vince disagreed with him.

“Exactly! It’s all you can do to keep people from tugging on this thing…”

Vince extended a rocky limb up to the hilt of the magic sword that penetrated his head. He used his other arm to pull himself up a bit, giving him a better view of his surroundings, in order to make sure that their secret meeting was not being spied upon. After being completely satisfied that they were alone, Vince opened his mouth and continued,

“…or keep thieves from trying to hammer and chisel it out. I have to say, if it weren’t for all those pencil heads declaring me a national monument, I never would have made it through those first few centuries…I was young back then…young and foolish.”

In fact, Vince didn’t have any thoughts at all until about five hundred years after receiving the sword.

His first thought was: ouch.

He repeated that thought for a short period of time…a decade or two, until he composed himself and realized that he was indeed a he, that he thought therefore he was, then ouch again, that he somehow understood the language of those around him, that there was a difference between right and wrong, ouch once more, and then he ended with the realization that the large piece of quartz across the field was totally making eyes with him.

All other thoughts that Vince has ever had since then, have been more or less irrelevant.

“What do you think, Barbara?”

Barbara, the piece of quartz in question, just sat off to the side, coyly. Vince inched a bit closer to her (as a rule, any rock that Vince round attractive was female),

“Oh come on Barbara, you can talk to me. You know as well as anyone how unfairly I’ve been treated! This thinking business has really been getting on my nerves. The last wizard that came around to look at me actually tried to teach me to read. I just drew myself up and shouted, ‘I’LL TEACH YOU TO READ!’

Yeah, that showed him. What do you think, Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle, with her dark and smooth features, remained expressionless and distant (about 35 feet away). Their brief love affair had left her a bit cold towards Vince, at least as far as he was concerned.

“Fine, be that way!”

Vince sighed, which wasn’t easy for a stone, and made a few small hops towards the center of the gathering.

“Well, it’s been really nice talking to you guys, but I’ve got to head off and see how my friends on the other side of the lake or doing. Who knows, maybe that descendant of that evil knight will finally come around to claim…”

A young man peered out of a bush, to get a better view of the bizarre scene. Vince noticed him immediately, and took note of the young man’s great height, strong chin, blue eyes, blond hair and muscular physique. The young man had what was easily recognizable as all the trappings of a hero that had arrived to claim what was rightfully his.

Vince knew exactly what to do.

He threw Phil at him.

The young man dodged and ran off in a blind panic towards the lake, where he nearly tripped over Hubert and struck his head upon Shelly. Vince hopped over to retrieve Phil, and then carefully placed him alongside his other friends. Vince ,the rock, then gave him a thumbs up and announced,

“Me and my buddy Phil, are a mean team.”

Vince then happily hopped away towards the lake, leaving his friends behind (but not before stopping to give Barbara a small kiss upon her cleavage). Perhaps he’d go for a swim, and say hello to all his friends at the lake bottom.

In this way, Vince passed the days, and didn’t seem the slightest bit disturbed that the other rocks didn’t share his intelligence…

Actually, to speak the truth, the rock the Uberkelwinskisaurus died upon received some of the beast’s magical aura, bestowing upon it a measure of intelligence and sentience.

It wasn’t enough to allow him to move, but it was enough to allow him to realize that he probably has it better than most other rocks, and that Vince was a complete lunatic.

Vince calls him Patsy.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


I forgot to mention, before leaving the Quincy Market, I fell down again, this time down a very short flight of stairs.

I went back to get evidence of their steepness and/or disrepair, but found them to be perfectly normal, which made it kind of hard to justify falling down them...especially after running into that poor woman.

It's okay, she was very nice and understanding. You see, there were two steps between the ground and the building, and at a glance, I thought there was only one. My first step landed halfway between two steps, vaulting me forwards, into that poor nice lady. Man, I wasn't even drunk.

I drank more caffeine, just to be sure, and checked out Paul Revere's house. There was a huge line, and he never completed that famous ride anyway, so I decided to skip it.

In case I've never mentioned it, Paul Revere started the ride with two other men, Prescott and Dawes. Shortly after starting, they were intercepted by British troops, who called for their surrender.

Paul Revere surrendered.


Prescott and Dawes rode on, braving the possible hail of bullets, and completed the famous ride that surrender monkey Revere gets credit for. Why does Revere get all that undeserved praise? The poem only mentioned him, and the poem got famous. Either the poet liked him more, or as Amber says, Revere just sounds better in a poem than Prescott or Dawes.

Afterwards I ran into Boston's massive Italian district. You know, I expected a large visible Irish presence (there wasn't), but it was the Italians that worked the hardest at making their presence known, with a very large number of Italian restaurants (I wonder if they still had clam chowder? I'm pretty sure it's mandatory, by Boston law).

A neat, spooky old graveyard was the next stop, and it was there I found one of the most interesting pieces of history I've ever discovered...but I'll wait to tell you about that another time. I want to properly give it justice (also, I left my notes on it at home, so I don't remember the details). Let's just say: it's awesomely spooky.

Before long I was tracing the harbor, passing strange abandoned buildings, all with the signs 'government property' on them. I don't know why the government is calling dibs on Silent Hill locations, but that's their deal. I got lost amongst those weird buildings (and kept an eye out for guys in pyramid shaped hats) and...I FOUND ONE!

The navy!

It was the U.S.S. Constitution, in all its glory!


So I wasted no time, and marched right into a Starbucks.

What? It was like 9 billion degrees! I was nearly melting onto the pavement, and only non-stop liquid refreshment from the best corporate coffee retailer kept me from perishing right there on the sidewalk.

The U.S.S. Constitution (or Old Ironsides as it's often called) is a perfectly restored 1800's era ship, that was used to fight the British in the war of 1812, and remains in perfect condition to this day. Of course, now it's permanently harbored in Boston as a floating museum, its Limey killing days far behind it.

Old Ironsides never lost a single battle, never retreated, and got its nickname when a cannonball struck its wooden side dead on...and bounced off, harmlessly. DAMNNNNNN.

Of course, to get to the ship I had to go through a security checkpoint that had all the trimmings. The female navy officer made me dump everything I had into a tray that went through an x-ray machine, while I stepped through a metal detector.

She even asked me to take off my belt, which if you're a guy, is always nice to hear from a woman.

The ship was absolutely amazing, as was the nice, cold beverage at their snack stand afterwards. With that, I was beat. I took a look at the WW2 warship they had next door, but I was too tired to go inside.

That was it, I was spent. It was time for dinner.

And what an unbelievably mediocre dinner it was! Granted, it started with an absolutely wonderful bowl of Clam Chowder, served by a procession of gorgeous waitresses, each wearing a low cut, short black dress, but the 'Shepard's Pie' was absolutely pathetic. I forget the name of the place, but it was a short name, only a few letters long. The people inside seemed to be enjoying themselves, but I can't see why (unless they didn't order entrees).

Imagine this: hamburger, taken directly from the package, minced and cooked with no sauce. Add chopped up generic veggies. Do not season it in any way. Overcook it a little. Throw it into a bowl. Toss generic mashed potatoes on it. Melt on a little cheese. Presto. Crap.

I am not exaggerating when I say they did not flavor it in any way. No sauce, no gravy, and no spices. Christ, I would have settled for salt and pepper at that point.

Still, I was on vacation, and in no mood to fuss. I took two bites, paid the bill, walked across the street, sat in another restaurant, and ordered dinner.

Hot Pots (or something to that effect), was a wonderful Thai restaurant (no clam chowder though). I ordered the duck soup with sticky rice, and this was some of the stickiest rice I've ever had. I almost needed a chisel (it's a good thing). The soup itself was immense in proportion, and had a mini-lantern below it (the kind used for indoor smores), which kept it warm. Despite the several small pieces of bone I had to be on the look out for, it was delicious, a cross between tender duck and sweet, onion soup.

It was then that I came upon my theory for Boston:

The restaurants in Boston can either have good Clam Chowder, or good entrees, but not both. The theory was proven on Sunday, when I ate the last meal of the trip at the wonderful legendary Union Oyster House, where I was treated to a Samuel Adams beer (mediocre, but surprisingly alcoholic), two magnificent Crab Cakes, and a mediocre bowl of clam chowder.

True, it was still the fourth best bowl I've ever eaten, but I was shocked that a restaurant famous for their fantastic seafood would serve up a mediocre bowl of Boston's most legendary dish. It's either one or the other, and frankly, I far preferred the crab cakes. Boston can take it's Shepard pie and shove it.

Well, that was about it. Boston. Wow. It's like a city they made before they knew what cities were supposed to be. At no point was it completely revised or reconstructed. It just started as a small port city, and as the years passed, they just added more and more.

Churches, colleges, wars, politics, businesses, tourists, cartoon aliens and soup.

Boston, I salute you.

Just enough with the Red Sox already. I'm sick of it. Which reminds me of my favorite conversation overheard during the trip, at the Oyster House:

GUY 1: "I love the Red Sox! We should make a band completely based on the Red Sox!

GUY 2: "Well, I really like fruit punch. Are we going to make a band about that too?"

Guy number two, I salute you...for keeping it all in perspective.